"SING THE BLUES IN SOLO"
CHANCE VOUGHT F7U-1 "CUTLASS"
U.S. NAVY BLUE ANGELS
Model Subject: Chance Vought F7U-1 "Cutlass"
Used: Aurora, kit no. 496
of the aircraft modeled:
Chance Vought F7U Cutlass was the most radical fighter design ever to achieve
fleet service. The bold design of the Cutlass gave the Navy a pioneer airframe
which was to test and develop many systems that are still in use today.
F7U was the first tailless airplane to go into production in the United States
and the first jet fighter in the U.S. designed from the outset with
afterburners. The Cutlass was also the Navy's first sweptwing jet, its first
with steerable nose wheels and an irreversible power control system.
for the Cutlass started in June 1945, and the tailless configuration was
developed in an attempt to solve the compressibility problems then being
encountered by such planes as the P-47 and F4U. These aircraft were experiencing
the compressibility phenomenon at around Mach .75 and since the F7U was expected
to operate in the neighborhood of Mach .9+, a solution was necessary. It was
known that at this high speed the downwash on the horizontal tail was causing
the nose to tuck under. Once this started the stick forces would become too
great for the pilots to handle. Since it was not possible to effect a trim
change large enough to give a negative lift coefficient, Vought decided to solve
the problem by eliminating the horizontal stabilizer.
Navy opened a 1945 fighter competition for a fighter capable of operating at
40,000 feet and 600 mph. In competition with twelve different designs by six
companies, the Vought V-346A was chosen the winner on June 25, 1946, and
Navy described the XF7U-1 as an experimental, tailless fighter designed for
carrier operations and equipped with two 24C turbojet engines. The principal
features included sweptback (35 degrees) wings of low aspect ratio, tricycle
landing gear, pressurized cockpit, and a fixed gun armament of four 20mm cannon.
The engine specification was changed to two Westinghouse J34-WE-32 turbojets by
the time of the initial flight.
folding wings were fitted with "ailevators" which combined the
function of elevators and ailerons. Since there were no landing flaps, leading
edge slats provided the low speed characteristics required for carrier landings.
Initially four speed brakes were installed in the XF7U-1. Two were of the
clamshell variety mounted on the trailing edge of each wing between the fuselage
and vertical tail, while the other two were located under the leading edge of
the intake ducts. The latter proved ineffective and were removed.
XF7U-1 flew for the first time on September 29, 1948 and without the aid of
afterburners. This flight and those to follow were sufficiently promising for
the Navy to place an order for 14 production F7U-1 aircraft.
fourteen production F7U-1s were never put into squadron service. Two F7U-1s,
124426 and 124427, were assigned to the Blue Angels for use during their 1952
shows. The Blues were flying F9F-5 Panthers at the time and the two Cutlasses
were mainly to be used as solo performers. The two pilots, Lt. Cdr. Edward L.
Feightner and Lt. Harding C. MacKnight only had their birds for a short time
before they were retired due to parts shortages. Other F7U-1s were used by the
advanced training command until they too ran out of parts. After the -1s were no
longer flyable, some were relegated to the Naval Air Technical Training Command,
where they were used as jet maintenance trainers.
retrospect, this unorthodox design, which took ten years to reach service
squadrons in the form of the F7U-3, proved too complicated and, more
importantly, did not offer the performance and dependability that its more
conservative contemporaries exhibited. Nevertheless, such forward looking
aircraft as the F7U laid the basis for more successful twin-tailed aircraft of
today, such as the Grumman F-14 Tomcat and the McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet.
It could truly be called the Studebaker of jet fighter designs coming out of the
late 1940s and early 1950s, too far ahead in the design department for the
technology of the time.
SPECIFICATIONS: CHANCE VOUGHT F7U-1 CUTLASS
Wingspan: 38 feet 8 inches
Length: 39 feet 7 inches
Height: 9 feet 10 inches
Empty weight: 11,870
Maximum weight: 16,840
Engine: Two Westinghouse J34-WE-32
single-shaft turbojets each developing 4,200 pounds thrust with afterburners
Armament: Four 20mm M-2 cannon under
Performance: Maximum speed 665 mph, Service ceiling 41,000 feet, Range 600 miles, Climb 11,280 ft/min
About the aircraft modeled:
the Navy's Blue Angels Precision Aerobatic Team utilized Grumman F9F-5 Panthers
at the time, two Vought F7U-1 Cutlass aircraft, 124426 and 124427, were employed
for individual solo performances. They flew for only two shows of the 1952
season (Glenview, Illinois and Detroit, Michigan), but were forced to be
grounded for lack of spare parts.
were only 14 production "dash one's" made and with Vought having
introduced the F7U-3, a much heavier aircraft and totally different in
construction though still baring the appearance of the -1, parts were not
available for the former models introduced in 1950.
subject I have modeled (Bureau No. 124426), left the Vought factory in late 1951
and was assigned to the U.S. Navy Blue Angels as an upcoming solo performer
during the 1952 season. This aircraft flown by Lt. Hardin C. MacKnight, along
with another F7U-1 flown by Lt. Cdr. Edward L. Feightner, excited audiences
during their two solo performances, particularly with their extremely loud
afterburners, something that was fairly new to the civilian in 1952.
I saw a picture of the two Cutlasses flying over the Dallas factory, in color no
less, I just had to build a Cutlass for my Blue Angel collection, of which this
is the fourth model completed.
problem I first encountered was finding a model of an F7U-1 Cutlass. There are
plenty of F7U-3s on the market by Fujimi, but where would I find a "dash
one". The help came from a model collector in Duxbury, Massachusetts. I
purchased an old Aurora kit (Kit No. 496) from this kind gentleman and proceeded
to start the kit upon its arrival.
Building the model:
to say, there was no cockpit in the kit. As a matter of fact, the cockpit area
wasn't even open. There was a generic pilot's head and upper coaming area molded
into each fuselage half.
cut out the cockpit opening in the kit
and scratch-built a cockpit using a Matchbox F9F-5 cockpit as a reference to go
by. I used sheet styrene for the cockpit, instrument panel, and instrument panel
shroud. The seat was scratch-built out of sheet styrene using photos I had of
F7U-1 seats, which were made by Vought themselves. The pilot was rifled from the
said mentioned Matchbox kit.
used various decals for the cockpit sides and the instrument panel, these I took
from surplus decal stock. Radio equipment and other boxes were depicted using
auto striping tape and painted with a clear flat finish (I like to brush paint
Testors Dullcote, as it dries almost immediately).
have had other modelers tell me that the interior was a neutral grey, but in the
photo the ejection seat is more of a medium green, so I painted the interior
with Model Master Medium Green. The instrument panel, instrument panel shroud,
and cockpit sides from canopy closure line to canopy were painted flat
pilot was painted with Polly S and Tamiya acrylics and given a black wash. The
helmet was painted a light blue that I mixed to match the photo I have and
goggles were painted black. After the paint dried I coated the helmet and
goggles with Johnson's FUTURE and applied a small strip of sanded black auto
striping tape for the goggles strap.
seat was painted medium green, with the headrest being painted Tamiya Hull Red
and given a light brushing of skin oil to semi gloss it. Rudder pedals were
simulated with two pieces of silver auto striping tape.
After I cemented the pilot to the seat, I attached two small strips of masking tape to the pilot and into two small slots that I had milled for the seat harness, these being painted olive drab. The cockpit was sit aside for the next adventure with this kit.
Fuselage and Wings
the landing gear pieces, which were not used, this kit had only 11 parts for the
entire assembly. I proceeded to sand every piece in the kit into a smooth
surface. Anyone who knows of these old kits can attest to the extent of
overexposing the control surfaces and rivets. Fortunately this kit was molded
with raised detail and it is much easier
to sand raised detail smooth, then to have to fill and sand recessed detail.
Something else I will have to give the kit maker
of this day, the plastic is much more user-friendly to sandpaper then the
plastic of today.
was able to sand all the sections in two days and then proceeded to rescribe
lines using photocopies of 1/72 scale plans that I had reduced from some 1/48
scale plans that I was able to locate. This was done by first scribing the lines
for control surfaces, wing slats, landing gear doors, fuselage panels, and
canopy closure with a curved blade in a hobby knife. After I had cut the lines,
I then cut out the lines with a dentist's scraping tool, sanded to remove any
plastic raised in the scribing and then washed the pieces to remove any skin oil
or sanding grit.
then drew my attention to the air intakes and made baffles for both. The inner
air intake piece is actually three pieces of sheet plastic, one being shimmed
against another so that the entire assembly will fit the inside of the fuselage,
while looking right on the outside. The cannon gun ports were drilled out and
filed. I scratch-built the exterior vents mounted just below and forward of the
air intakes out of sheet styrene.
vertical stabilizers were cemented to their proper wing halves, filled with gel
type super glue, and sanded smooth. I used an accelerator here, as it made the
cement more sandable and I was not too concerned about the bond (always check
for air bubble pits when using an accelerator with this type of cement).
removed the twin exhausts from the exhaust assembly and extended the rear
section with two pieces of sheet styrene. Exhaust protective pieces were also
constructed of sheet styrene, that I rolled with a piece of heated brass to get
the curvature needed (tape the brass where you are going to handle it), and
cemented to the exhaust assembly. Lastly two exhausts were cut from 1/4 inch
aluminum rod, these being thinned on the exposed edge by using a cone-shaped
cutting bit and cone-shaped sanding bit in a pin vise. These were painted
gunmetal, with a little more black added, on the outside and Testors Jet Exhaust
inside, then set aside for installation after the model was painted.
exhaust assembly was cemented to the fuselage halves and the entire assembly was
wet sanded to remove any abnormalities in the cemented joints. The wing/vertical
stabilizer assemblies were now cemented to the fuselage assembly and this was
also lightly filled and sanded.
canopy was useless in its molded form, but was useful in supplying me with a
start for a mold to stretch-form a new canopy out of clear butyrate. I filled in
the heavy molded separation line in the kit canopy with gel type super glue and
added three 2mm sections of sheet styrene to the bottom of the front section. I
then added strips of evergreen styrene and slowly built up a curvature in the
top of the canopy to match photos I had. After I achieved a curvature to my
liking, I filled in the strips liberally with super glue. I then wet sanded the
mold while constantly checking the fit and when the desired shape was met, I
polished the mold with two grades of Meguire's Mirror Glaze. After I had
polished the mold to my liking, I applied a coat of Johnson's FUTURE, attached a
piece of long sprue (4 inches will do) to the inside of the mold, and filled the
inside of the mold with epoxy to strengthen it during the stretch-forming.
I have never got the hang of vacuforming anything with as much curvature as a
canopy, I use the heating element of my old Mattel Vacuform Machine and when the
plastic is properly heated I pull the heated butyrate up and insert my mold into
the butyrate as far as it needs to go to get the shape I'm after.
always make multiple pieces while I'm at it, as the canopies are very thin and
easily miscued in cutting if one is not exceedingly careful. The down side to
this is that any abnormality that exists on the mold will positively show
through. If really makes one appreciate the trouble cottage industries go
through making clear vacuform parts for modelers. After I had made the canopies,
I chose the first one that was cut out correctly.
rods for the rudder, trim tabs, and ailevators were constructed from 26 gauge
wire and cemented into predrilled holes. Underwing blade antennas were cut from
sheet styrene, painted, and set aside for assembly after the model was painted
and decaled. Likewise the antenna on the underside fuselage was cut from 18
gauge wire, painted, and saved for installation later.
small bent antenna on the canopy section was cut from .005 stainless steel wire,
attached later, and painted after assembly. The pitot tube on the port vertical
stabilizer was constructed from a 25 gauge hypodermic needle and stainless steel
wire. The small bulge underneath the fuselage just ahead of the gun ports is
nothing more than a drop of epoxy.
framing on the canopy forward section was cut from sanded black auto striping
tape after the canopy was installed and cleaned up. I used the kit nose piece
after filling the attachment hole for the nose boom. (For some reason Aurora's
kit showed an F7U-3 on the box art and the kit's raised molding outlined the
rudders, ailevators, etc. of an XF7U-1.)
Painting and Decaling
the canopy was installed and masked, I primed the entire assembly in neutral
grey primer. After this had dried
for two days, I rubbed out the primer with an old undershirt , filled any
abnormalities, and reprimed these areas. A day later I rubbed out the reprimed
areas and airbrushed three coats of Model Master Blue Angel Blue and set the
model aside for two weeks (its been very wet weather here).
the fortnight sabbatical, I polished the model with Meguire's Mirror Glaze #3
(their finest abrasive) and applied Bare-metal Foil to the three rear sections
of the engine/exhaust assembly. The foil on the two rear sections was coated
with Testors Dullcoat, as the photo I have shows this area as having a flat
appearance and the forward section as being polished.
decals are a mish-mash from three separate decal sheets. The number 7 on the
vertical stabilizers used two different numbers, 1 and 2, from SuperScale sheet
72-138. The bureau numbers were individually cut from sheet 72-138; I had to
invert four number 5s to get the number 2s I needed. The underwing decals
likewise came from SuperScale sheet 72-138. This is strictly speculation on how
the underwing motif looked as I have no drawing, photo, or written authenticity
as to how it looked. It just looked right to my eye and I took artistic license
on this one. The U.S. NAVY fuselage decals are from SuperScale sheet 72-133. I
wanted to use some I had left over from the Blue Angels Bearcat I built, but
they were not large enough. The ones I utilized are correct in their length, but
a little tall in their characters. The Blue Angels logo decals are from the
Matchbox F9F-4/5 kit.
the decals had dried, I gently washed them to remove adhesive residue and coated
all exterior surfaces, saving the flat black anti-glare panel and the rear
exhaust assembly, with Johnson's FUTURE.
navigation lights were cut out previously and replaced with drops of epoxy.
After setting I painted the port wing light Tamiya Clear Red and the starboard
light Tamiya Clear Blue.
AIRCRAFT OF THE WORLD, George Rainbird Ltd., Marble Arch House, 44 Edgeware
Road, London, W2, United Kingdom, 1969.
Steve, CUTLASS: The Full Story Of The U.S. Navy's Most Unorthodox Fighter Of
The Fifties, AIRPOWER, Volume 13, Number 6, November, 1983, Sentry Books,
Inc. 10718 White Oak Ave., Granada Hills, CA 91344.
Bill, The Encyclopedia of the World's COMBAT AIRCRAFT, Salamander Books
Ltd., 52 James Street, London, W1, United Kingdom, 1976.
Jim, "A Pictorial History of the Blue Angels", Squadron/Signal
Publications, Inc., 1115 Crowley Drive, Carrollton, TX 75011, 1981.